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A Celebration of Toni Morrison


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On Monday, American writer Toni Morrison died at the age of 88. Her legacy will continue to impact and impress upon the world long after she has gone, with her language leaving lasting impressions on anyone who has had the privilege to read it. Morrison's influence on the world of literature, as well as her ideology of what it means to live in a 'free' world, are vital. 

While giving her Nobel Lecture in 1993, Morrison famously remarked, "We die. That may be the meaning of life. But we do language. That may be the measure of our lives.

Toni Morrison

Image Credit: The American Library Association via Flickr

Morrison understood the integral importance of the written and spoken word.

Morrison was born Chloe Anthony Wofford in 1931 in Ohio She often spoke of how her parents 'instill[ed] in her a love of reading, music and folklore along with clarity and perspective'. Such love was to be displayed throughout her life in her use of language, both written and spoken. Morrison was one of those people who took you on a journey every time she spoke. Understanding the importance of a story, she managed to relay her ideas and connect with people of different ages, race, and social standing. 

Morrison was never afraid to tackle issues head-on. In her 1987 novel Beloved she explored the haunting of a  mother who had chosen to kill her baby rather than have it grow up in a world of slavery. As such, many of her works focused on the issues of identity and inequality in a divided America throughout its controversial and bloody history.

Morrison speaking in 2008

Image via Wikipedia

Morrison herself said, "Sexist language, racist language, theistic language - all are typical of the policing languages of mastery, and cannot, do not permit new knowledge or encourage the mutual exchange of ideas."

Her lessons and ideas resonate now as much as ever. One issue she often confronted was the idea of 'Americanness" and what it means to be American.

"In this country, American means white. Everyone else has to hyphenate." These ideas are crucial, especially when we consider recent events in the country, as well as the damaging white supremacist ideology that is spreading like wildfire around the world.

Barack Obama shared a touching tribute to the late author:

I thought this was a fitting quote to end with:

"I tell my students, 'When you get these jobs that you have been so brilliantly trained for, just remember that your real job is that if you are free, you need to free somebody else. If you have some power, then your job is to empower somebody else. This is not just a grab-bag candy game."

In this way, Morrison reminds us of what it means to be human. 

In memory of Toni Morrison, February 18th 1931- August 5th 2019.

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